People want to know whether peanut butter is toxic to cats as cats sometimes like to lick peanut butter. My research indicates that peanut butter per se is not too bad for cats but some peanut butter contains a sweetener called Xylitol. Xylitol is listed under “people foods to avoid feeding your pets” on the ASPCA website. ASPCA are well known for their animal poison hotline and therefore they are trusted. It is clear that Xylitol is more poisonous to dogs than to cats but it is toxic to both according to this organisation.
They say that it is used as a sweetener in many products. My research indicates that in the UK there are five peanut butter brands that use Xylitol: Go Nuts Co., Krush Nutrition, Nuts ‘N More, P28 Foods, and Protein Plus PB. You will need to do your own research because the list might not be comprehensive and I can’t vouch for its accuracy. The best thing to do would be to simply read the ingredients on the label before you buy the product.
Dogs – deadly
There are stories on the Internet about Xylitol being deadly for dogs. Yes, it is that serious for dogs. Therefore the focus should be more on dogs. For dogs it is a hundred times more toxic than chocolate because when they ingest Xylitol their bodies release insulin. They can’t recognise the difference between sugar and Xylitol. This can lead to vomiting, seizures and possible liver failure.
ASPCA say that Xylitol is also found in baking goods, toothpaste, candy and gum. They confirmed that it can cause the release of insulin in “most species” which can lead to liver failure. Increased insulin leads to hypoglycaemia, which is lower sugar levels. The signs of toxicosis (a condition caused by poisoning) include loss of coordination, lethargy and vomiting. Symptoms can progress to seizures. Within a few days there can be liver failure. I think that this description applies more to dogs than cats, as mentioned.
However, ASPCA refer to pets in general and therefore there is a risk in allowing your cat to eat peanut butter. My gut feeling is that it is a relatively low risk if your cat eats a small amount but you don’t want to put your cat at risk do you?
The conclusion is that that your cat should not eat peanut butter as a little treat because there are many other little treats that your cat can enjoy which are entirely safe.
A bit more about this chemical. Dogs consume Xylitol more commonly by ingesting chewing gum, as it happens. The chemical was introduced about nine years ago as a sugar substitute in bakeries. In about 2015, food companies started to add it to peanut butter to allow them to label their products as ‘low sugar’ or ‘no sugar’. Xylitol has fewer calories than normal and is a popular sweetener for humans. Some studies suggest that it has various important benefits to humans including improved dental health. It is categorised as a “sugar alcohol”. It occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables and is therefore considered “natural”.
It has a similar sweetness level to regular sugar but contains 40% fewer calories: table sugar contains 4 cal per gram whereas Xylitol contains 2.4 cal per gram. It can be processed from trees like birch or from a plant fibre called xylan.
I will stop there because I realise that you want to know whether you should allow your cat to peanut butter and I have answered the question.
Video of cat enjoying peanut butter
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SOME MORE ON TOXIC TO CATS: